Supposedly, Genghis Khan once said: “The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemy, to drive him before you, to see his cities reduced to ashes, to see those who love him shrouded in tears, and to gather into your bosom his wives and daughters.”
I don’t know if Michael Jordan ever studied Genghis Khan, but he lived his basketball life according to that philosophy. Well, maybe not the “gather into your bosom his wives and daughters” part. But MJ was, if nothing else, a ruthless basketball assassin. He specialized in vanquishing his enemies. Heck, he delighted in it. More than anything else, that’s what drove him to win six championships and become the greatest player in the history of the game.
It’s also what drove him to give a rather surprising speech at his Hall of Fame induction. Jordan, with all eyes on him once again, laid some serious waste to his enemies and even a few friends: Jerry Krause, the “freeze-out gang” (Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson and George Gervin), Kevin Loughery, Pat Riley, Jeff Van Gundy, Bryon Russell, the “media naysayers,” his old high school coach…even Dean Smith, a father figure who didn’t choose Jordan to appear on a Sports Illustrated cover in 1982 because he was a freshman, was mildly chastised for crossing the GOAT.
For my part, I was a little surprised to realize that (seemingly) inner peace hasn’t been achieved by a man who has conquered the world. He still needed one last pound of flesh, one last opportunity to drive his enemies before him. Or maybe that was the most fitting tribute of all. After all, threats, challenges, competition…those were the things — moreso than friends, family, coaches, agents, shoe contracts, etc. — that made Michael Jordan the greatest there ever was. And that’s what Jordan told us. In his own special way.
He also hinted that his basketball life isn’t necessarily over. Said MJ: “One day you might look up and see me playing the game at 50. Oh, don’t laugh. Never say never, because limits like fears [are] often just an illusion.”
If that really is the case, then Jordan already has his first challenger…